Category Archive: Comic Review

Oct 21 2014

Zombies Calling – Faith Erin Hicks

This short graphic novel is packed with potential. Joss is stressing over exams and student loans to the point driving her roommates, the sex obsessed Robyn and goth Sonnet, insane, until a zombie attack changes her focus. Clever in a meta discussion of “the Rules” to surviving a zombie apocalypse a la the movies, this humorous comic could have been fleshed out to be a meaty treat (sorry I had to write that). Sadly, we are given just enough character information to make them start to seem interesting before it is torn away–like so much flesh from bone. I’ve complained about Hicks’ art always making everyone gorgeous, and yes I complain about that in movies/TV too. I really don’t see why Hicks doesn’t revisit this, double the length, and cash in on the movie rights that are sure to come. 

Oct 20 2014

Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens

This is a collection of one big story and several mini ones about the vampire: Marceline, her band, the Princess of the Candy kingdom: Bubblegum, and their adventures in the land of Ooo. I really enjoy the TV show and am impressed with how much depth of backstory they put into a seemingly innocent kids’ show, and my favorite character is the color eating, hard rocking, vampire queen Marceline. Naturally, I got a kick out of this sweet and funny, and often delightfully drawn, comic about Marceline’s insecurity as she goes on tour. 

Oct 17 2014

Wolverine: Sabretooth Reborn – Jeph Loeb

An extended action scene of the good-guy killer mutant, Wolverine, for the purpose of getting Sabretooth back into the Marvel universe (see title) and having someone named Romulus, who I didn’t know but seems to be another Wolverine/Sabretooth, do some stuff. Not worth it. 

Oct 16 2014

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard

Cej got me another Culbard adaption of a Lovecraft novella. This was one of the first Lovecraft stories I ever read and, while not particularly famous, is, in my view, one of the purest of his tales. It deals with a man attempting to unravel what has happened to his friend that has made him act so strange, and, in turn, tells that person’s story about what happened. The layers of the mystery and supernatural horror is so well done and shows his care in writing. All this is why I was wary when approaching this comic. Happily, this graphic work really captures the mysterious elements and the sad truths that unravel throughout the story. Dark colors and focus on individuals makes the tale vivid. A great comic and a strong introduction to the world of Lovecraft.

Oct 15 2014

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel – Sharon E. McKay & Daniel Lafrance

Adapted from the novel about a group of kids that get captured and forced to join the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)–you know, the rebel group in central Africa that kidnaps and tortures children, forces them to rape, murder, maim, and pillage under the guise of a christian liberation movement, that Rush Limbaugh supports. It is certainly powerful stuff and apparently based on solid research, and yet I felt that with such incredible material, the novel (i.e., the fiction) part seemed both unnecessary and (for all its horror) sanitized (in that there is rarely screams of pain, no rape, little mutilation, etc.). Good introduction to the topic and the idea of healing after undergoing the horrible. 

Oct 14 2014

Wolverine: Goes to Hell – Jason Aaron

Oh, good, Wolverine the former murder and current superhero is in hell paying for his crimes (and for no reason Puck from Alpha Flight is there). Lots of slashing takes place and the only good things is that the rarely used Son of Satan superhero is in this comic (but TWO Ghost Riders?! Come on.). Stuff happens but who cares? To make this even worse there is a summary of the “history” of Wolverine in the back of this trade and this 11 page illustrated nonsense is there to remind us of what a piece of garbage the Wolverine story has become. It’s just embarrassing. I think I’ve given Aaron’s Wolverine runs more than enough of a chance, there just isn’t anything there for me. 

Oct 13 2014

Wolverine: Back in Japan – Jason Aaron

A very silly comic wherein the indestructible killing machine and superhero goes to Japan to fight numerous former and new foes and build up a body count in a very Garth Ennis unappealing way. Do you think you could have had one artist finish a single issue? 

Oct 12 2014

Wolverine (omnibus vol 1) – Jason Aaron

Continuing with my all things Wolverine/Aaron spree, I read this over 600 page collection of Aaron’s work on the mutant superhero former homicidal maniac with the metal claws. I was disappointed. Hundreds of pages of stories and for the majority of it is it just Wolverine getting into fights with someone (usually a villain). You would think with all this time Aaron could have spent some time on character development or a few cool plots, but no. There is a noted exception when Aaron introduces a cliche storyline of madman running the insane asylum, and a silly idea of brains being used to power machines, but I have to say that he continued with the development of the idea and made it grow into a larger story line that actually has some curve balls and even attempted (although it seems to have been aborted) the development of a secondary character that (could have) directly effected the grow of Wolverine. Still, I don’t think I’ll read the second massive tome. 

Oct 11 2014

Wolverine: Logan – Brian K. Vaughan

This comic about an episode in the earlier days of the killer mutant, Wolverine, is good if you don’t read it. You see, it take place at the end of WWII in Japan where he is a POW and his quest to find peace in a world at war. Reading it quickly, it seems rather bittersweet, but if you actually think about what is occurring in the comic you start to do things like question “How can X not survive Y but survive Y times a billion? Is this dream magical or simple a dream? How could a relationship based on nothing work forever? What is Vaughan trying to say about his character(s)? etc.” I’m vague here to limit spoilers, but this is one of those comics that is created and gotten away with due to star power. So read it, but don’t think about it or you’ll ruin it like I did. 

Oct 09 2014

Filler – Rick Spears & Rob G

This is a story of John, a filler, you know, a guy that stands in line-up wherein a victim picks a criminal out from amongst the crowd. Then one day it is John that gets involved in a crime and his whole boring world gets very complex. For a rather short graphic novel, with very few words, this well and simply drawn comic is filled with excitement. I truly enjoyed it. If I would have to name a fault it is that the story could have been longer without losing anything (that’s how much I liked it: I wanted more) and it did seem as if it were a pitch for a movie–which a lot of comics are like, so let’s not judge. If anything, I hope it does get turned into a movie.

Oct 07 2014

Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Standford White – Rick Geary

Geary does another great job recounting a brief but solid summary of the events surrounding a (once) famous murder. Standford White is a man around town who is killed by a trust fund recipient over the honor of a fashion model, showing that lifestyles of the rich and famous are (occasionally) punctuated with miserable insanity. Well done, although I’m not sure why I always love his art except when it comes to his drawings of people’s faces. 

Oct 06 2014

Young Lovecraft (vol III) – Jose Oliver and Bartolo Torres

Great illustrations by Torres, this comic strip “recounts” the childhood of the misanthropic horror writer Howard Philip Lovecraft. This is the 3rd volume (read review of others here) and I liked how it started with a trip to the Dreamlands with a little help from a Dr West. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this was as strong as the first couple. Some of the trouble appears to be poor translations from the original spanish, yet it seems to be more that the stories are shorter and less involved. Hopefully the next volume will pick up. 

Oct 05 2014

The Shadow Out of Time – H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J Culbard

Yet another adaption by Culbard of a Lovecraft story of the same name, and I continue to enjoy them despite the horrible binding job of the book and the egotistical autobio blurb Culbard gives. The art and color are solid as usual and I think this work translated to the comic medium well–which isn’t always the case–and even thought that if there were to be a film version of the tale, then this should be the basis (and maybe that was always the hope, but if it does happen, please make the polyps more menacing (you’ll learn about them soon enough)). The story itself is about a professor that is trying to come to terms with a period of his life that he does not recall–except in vague, terrifying dreams–and uncover the mystery behind it all. Nicely done. 

Oct 04 2014

Famous Players: The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor – Rick Geary

Yes, I didn’t know who he was either, but he was once a big shot Hollywood producer (and also perhaps a closet homosexual, petty criminal, and drug user, amongst other things). Geary just keeps cranking out these lovingly produced comics about near forgotten and once headlining murders in America. Taylor’s murder is just another one that is, sadly, never solved. Always good to read his work and I wonder if they are useful in getting people interested and/or knowledgeable about American history. Perhaps a study could be done, although the fact that Cej got hold of this “discarded” work from a library and it appears to have never been read, might answer my question. 

Oct 02 2014

Zombillenium (vol. 1): Gretchen – Arthur De Pins

Coming to us in English is French cartoonist de Pins’ story about a horror themed amusement park that actually is staffed exclusively by monsters. The latest addition is a down and out guy who “accidentally” gets turned into a monster (what type is still an ongoing debate) and is forced to become an employee. So far the story is nothing super deep (although there is this whole zombie union issue that I think is a very nice added element) and I’m not sold on the art which smacks to me of CGI, yet I enjoyed this very short (although very large in page size) comic and will look for the next volume. 

Sep 28 2014

Message to Adolf (Part 2) – Osamu Tezuka

You need to read the first review here before this one. Done that? Then you will recall that I was eager to read this second part. Having done so there is a lot less eagerness here. The story continues as before but with jumps in time that disrupts the plot and character development to the point of annoyance (although considering how long this thing is it would take another thousand pages to finish at a proper rate), and the earth-shattering information  that started the whole story becomes boring at best, a joke at worse, as it is never really dealt with. There are times of true artistic beauty in terms of poignant moments of tragedy and Tezuka does not shy away from having evil characters do good or good characters commit evil, but there are too many stretches  with me wishing the whole thing would come to an end. If you manage to get the whole way through I think you will find it a fascinating work from an unusual perspective and a story both worth telling and reading, even if it does not live up to what I might have wanted it to be. 

Sep 27 2014

Fantastic Four – Jonathan Hickman

Since I didn’t want to eat up the title line, here are the collections that make up this review: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four vol 1-4, FF vol. 1-2, Fantastic Four vol. 5, FF vol. 3, Fantastic Four vol. 6, & FF vol. 4 

The Fantastic Four is a group of super heroes (based vaguely on the four elements), each with their own dynamic personality, but you wouldn’t know that from reading this comic run better labeled: The God-Scientistic Reed Richards With Appearances From His Two Kids And Dad. The stories largely deal with Reed/kids/dad trying to save the world from cosmic threats they seem to have created, and how one solutions just leads to a more dangerous situation later–something that is rather interesting. I don’t know how anyone unfamiliar with the title could know who the characters are (both old and new ones) or particularly care as stories are rather bare boned, and, early on, tended to end as soon as something interesting might happen. I would like to tell you what the plot of these works were, but nothing really happens until volume 4 and only then because of events that start with a character’s death, which is a device I hate. Also, does anyone remember the time that the FF would solve problems that didn’t involves the slaughter of perhaps tens of thousands of people? (Wait, sorry, they aren’t humans that get killed–and they don’t cry out in fear/pain–so it is ok.) Additionally, while it may seem cool to have plots within plots, time travel galore–the bread and butter of Hickman–, and lots of scenes of a kid kicking people in the nuts, there is something boring about, for example, a 3 year old that is smarter than every genius that have ever lived put together and multiplied by 3 and capable of doing things in ten minutes that ever scientist on the planet, using every resource on the planet, could not achieve in a decade. And that’s hardly the worst of it, as people quite literally become gods. It may seem neat at first, but it quickly becomes pointless. Also, there is too much rock-paper-scissors in that hero X can defeat villain Y who can destroy entity Z who can crush hero X. Don’t misunderstand me. I love cosmic battles and alien invasions, but I don’t like to simply have “unclassified power levels” and aliens destroying all of Manhattan. Subtly is good, as are parameters, and without these elements the writing becomes sloppy. The best work is vol. 5 as various strings come together if nothing else and you have a sense of both completion, that past events were leading somewhere, and enough action and pathos to get a reader involved. However, I challenge anyone to say that there has been much of any character development, or that the events really mesh together (without one of the characters saying that this is simply what happens, always, in all time lines). The writing is not particularly snappy or funny and there are more artists than I can shake a stick at–and I’ve been known to shake a stick. I was ready to quit until the end of vol. 4 and that, sadly, kept me around as I saw the spark of great potential. Potential that never seemed to materialize. I will give props to vol. 6, which is more a series of vignettes of the aftermath, and I think these short, focused, rather self contained tales are where Hickman shines brighter. Luckily, this largely continues in FF vol. 3 (albeit on a slightly sillier note at times), which brings his run to its end. In the final analysis, I can’t really recommend these books. If Cej (who enjoyed it) had told me the entire story, I probably would have liked it more than reading it. Still, it is understandable why people get into Hickman’s convoluted plots; I guess I’m more interested in other aspects. 

Sep 26 2014

X-Men: Manifest Destiny

At best this is a bunch of B work from various writers and artists attempting to show depth about mutants as they settle in to life in San Fran after most mutants have been murdered. You would think that last part would be a good place to start when it comes to writing emotionally potent comics, but no, these stories are largely about nothing. 

Sep 25 2014

Mister Negativity and other tales of Supernatural Law – Batton Lash

Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd are two attorneys who specialize in representing the supernatural in courts of law. The last time I read a collection and reviewed it, I was disappointed. This time I was much more pleased. Lash (who I met once and he seemed very nice) does not rely as much on the puns and focuses more on telling clever and enjoyable (if not scream with laughter) stories revolving around parodies of fantasy and horror genres. In this collection he has a boy wizard with tourets, the Muse of potboilers who is a plagiarist, a misogynistic  monster (who isn’t at all Dave Sim), a talking ape, and a great Steven King bit. Regretfully, the same concern with the flat characters is still here. While Lash tried to have romances for the characters to flesh them out, it is too little to really matter, and while you can like the parodies, this comic isn’t going to be great until he can make the characters, not just the cases, come to life. 

Sep 24 2014

Town Boy – Lat

I’ve never seen such a unique style of art as Lat has for his memoir about growing up Malay with his Chinese best friend (perhaps because the art is so stylized that it would appear racists if drawn by your average white guy lah). In any event, I thought the story and art were great, putting plenty of smiles on my face lah. Little short and even littler (?!) background–if you do not know of the ethnic make-up of Malaysia you might lose something in your reading–yet lots of enjoyment lah (ok, I have no idea if I’m using that expression correctly). 

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